Monday, 10 September 2012
by Tania de Jong AM
Creativity is the strategic tool of the 21st century
Creative leadership is a priority in these increasingly complex and volatile times. To be a leader today you require a whole different set of tools and thinking. Unfortunately, our education system has not taught us how to think “outside the box”.
Due to the fact that creative thinking is generally not part of our education curriculum, often people lack confidence in their creative ability. We are all creative beings and if we can remove our self-limiting beliefs about our own creativity then we can develop this important capability. Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value. It’s a process and it’s not random. Furthermore, it can be learnt. As Edward de Bono said: “Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people, adding strength to their natural abilities, which improves teamwork, productivity, and where appropriate, profits.” Creativity and innovation are a core competency for leaders and managers. We need to teach people how to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, to ask important questions and to generate solutions. Generating fresh solutions to problems, and the ability to create
new products, processes or services for a changing market and new world are part of the intellectual capital that gives a company its competitive edge. Creativity is a crucial part of the innovation equation.
Create a culture of innovation
The key to creative leadership and developing a culture of innovation is engaging your employees. We all have innate, untapped talents that are just waiting to be discovered. Yet very often organizations are restrictive and inflexible and there is too little communication between different areas. Companies are too siloed and, in turn, employees feel disengaged and do not feel a sense of belonging to the “whole”. Companies that create a culture where every voice matters unlock far more of their employees’ creative talents and this, of course, leads to greater productivity, wellbeing and success.
The more that we can give employees discretion and freedom to take initiatives and reward them for doing so, the more they will evolve to become creative leaders. They need to be given a chance to try and prototype new ideas quickly, given permission to fail and then be encouraged to try again.
Rather than the typical ‘command and control’ management styles of the past, organizations need to foster collaboration and communication across departments and celebrate diversity. If you are seeking creativity and innovation then it’s essential to connect regularly across the organization (and ideally across sectors), and tap into people’s senses, perceptions, ideas and passions.
The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued. That being said, there does need to be a pipeline to capture all ideas, test them out and eventually prototype and create something new or improved. And don’t forget to develop a rewards system to incentivize your people.
These extremely volatile times and the challenging financial environment mean that being creative is becoming more urgent. Being creative in business terms isn’t an added extra. It’s an imperative. It’s about being creative for a purpose ie. to add value. The purpose in a company is to improve the company’s impact and performance. Therefore any creative strategy is about improving products, processes and services or coming up with new possibilities or opportunities.
Creativity should never be an afterthought and should always be a key part of an organization’s core purposes, not just in words but in deeds. If you create a culture of creativity and innovation, celebrate diversity and ensure that every voice matters you will outstrip your competitors.
Creative leaders continually meet new challenges, and recognize and pursue new opportunities through bold thinking and innovations.
Here’s my top 10 Creative Leadership attributes any organisation needs in today’s business climate:
1. Great at generating many ideas – innovative, game-changing and even commonplace
2. Always looking to experiment with good ideas. Sometimes, trying out a few times
3. Unwavering belief in their creativity and innovation, coupled with originality in thinking
4. Smart and bright with a positive self image. More often, they are not born geniuses
5. Passionate, expressive and sensitive to their teams, colleagues and surroundings
6. Demonstrate superior judgment, and do not make quick decisions (although have a gut feel)
7. Non-conformists and independent, requiring less social approval than most people
8. Innate ability to understand and solve the problem, and manage the consequences
9. Born dreamers with strong imagination; however, manage to keep things in perspective
10. Create and launch game changing products meeting a high level of quality and design
According to Harvard Business Review, some questions to address if you wish to develop creative leaders who can help your organization cope with increasing complexity:
1. What cultural, political, organizational and technological barriers should your organization overcome if it wishes to develop a group of creative leaders?
2. What structures, reward systems, processes, metrics and goals do you have in place to support creative leaders?
3. How do you encourage risk taking and learning from failure? How do you measure it?
4. Do you simply adopt best practices learned from industry leaders or do you shape “next practices” that will make your organization the leader in the future?
5. How effective are you in partnering with customers, suppliers, employees and even your competition to improvise great solutions and co-create the future together?
Matt Goldberg, CEO of Lonely Planet, recently said to me: “The challenge of the 21st century is to transform our organisations to adapt flexibly and rapidly to the ever-changing and volatile environments we face. We will have to reduce cost structures while increasing productivity, adopt new ways of working and invent business models that challenge old ways of thinking, and maintain our commitment to innovation and growth even as we make the transition away from core businesses that have served us so well in the past. It is a high stakes race to position ourselves to respond effectively to the dynamic challenges emerging around us.”
To meet this challenge we need to become better creative leaders. Celebrate passion, diversity and openness and respect courageous new ideas. Companies that fail to nurture creativity and foster innovation now will not be around in 5 to 10 years. It’s worth the risk – get creative!
"Without a doubt the best conference in Australia with a delightful mix of creativity and big thinking bringing together an eclectic group of industry, community and education leaders. Once again, I’ve come away enthused by new ideas, more aware of future trends, and heartened by the kindness of humanity. We all have a role to play and it should be a collective one." Kerry Anderson, Founder of Operation Next Gen
"Conferences are boring. Creative Innovation is more like a rodeo for ideas, and you are guaranteed to leave wanting to make the world better for everyone." Andrew Despi, A.kin
"Kudos to Tania for organising the the 2019 CI Conference in Melbourne - it is the best I have attended so far. All the speakers and sessions were very well-planned. I have attended many conferences and this is the first I did not have the 'luxury' to skip any sessions. Your effort in this space has truly made Melbourne a global innovation and entrepreneurship hub." Danny Ong, Deakin University
"I wanted to pass along how incredible I thought Creative Innovation was and how much your passion for life and for humanity was inspiring to all of us. It was a privilege to be included and one that I am very grateful for." John Pickering, Chief Behavioural Scientist
"Creative Innovation is a transformational platform built by changemakers for changemakers. It is an educational adventure showcasing the forefront of ideas internationally." Melissa Warner, Ci2019 Scholarship Winner & Education Officer, Mind Medicine Australia
"Creative Innovation 2019 was one of the most well-organised events I’ve ever taken part in. From beginning to the end, every detail had been planned through and taken care of. Secondly, are the production values. As a result, it was possible to attend all the sessions without suffering conference burn-out, happy in the knowledge that the next piece of content was guaranteed to delight and challenge the senses." Richard Claydon (Singapore)
"Well done on another successful Ci conference. Your energy, passion and sheer determination to ensure the conference delegates get a fantastic experience is admirable." VP People & Global Capability | P&GC, Woodside Energy
There are a host of incredible opportunities to partner with us on this world class innovation event. If you are interested in becoming a partner or creative collaborator for the upcoming conference, please contact:
“Remarkable, mind blowing, brilliantly choreographed – easily the best conference ever and I’ve been to plenty. Truly wonderful and amazing.”
Jim Grant, Partner, Dattner Grant
“Thank you for a challenging and rewarding couple of days. The quality of the team you had at the conference was extraordinary! These events will change people and thereby the world.”
Craig Carolan, Director Private Wealth, ANZ
“I came to learn – I came away inspired! Best conference ever.”
Paul Duldig, University of Melbourne